Scottish Daily Mail
KGB contract on The Duke
QUESTION Is it true that the KGB attempted to assassinate actor John Wayne?
The idea that Joseph Stalin ordered the KGB to assassinate a hollywood star sounds bizarre, but there are multiple reports and accounts from both sides of the Cold War that confirm the murder plot did exist.
John Wayne, nicknamed ‘The Duke’, wasn’t just the quintessential image of the American cowboy onscreen, but outspoken about his hatred of Communism.
he had been warned to tone down his rhetoric, but went on record with the response: ‘No goddamn Commie’s gonna frighten me.’
According to the book John Wayne: The Man Behind The Myth, by Michael Munn, Soviet film-maker Sergei Gerasimov discovered the KGB assassination plot and told Wayne about it in 1949.
The first attempt involved two Russian hitmen posing as FBI agents who attempted to visit Wayne at his office in hollywood. Real FBI agents intercepted the would-be killers.
It’s rumoured Wayne and his script writer, Jimmy Grant, had hatched a plot of their own to abduct any hit squad, drive them to a beach and stage a mock execution.
Though no one can confirm if this ever happened, failing at their mission was enough to frighten the first would-be assassins. Rather than return to Russia and report to Stalin, they agreed to work for the FBI.
In his book, Munn said another group of Communists based in Burbank, California, had plotted to kill Wayne in 1955. however, stuntmen raided their premises and ‘ran them out of town’.
The book also alleges Communist agents tried to kill Wayne on the set of 1953’s Western film hondo in Mexico.
Stalin died in 1953 and his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, met privately with John Wayne in 1958 to inform him that the kill order had been rescinded. Wayne told his friends that Khrushchev referred to Stalin’s ‘mad years’ and apologised for the dictator’s behaviour.
Emilie Lamplough, Trowbridge, Wilts.
QUESTION How did the town of Staines get its name? Has it changed it because of bad publicity?
STAINeS, a market town and parish in the Spelthorne district of Middlesex, officially changed its name to Stainesupon-Thames in 2011 because of the bad publicity drawn to it by Sacha Baron Cohen’s character Ali G and his posse, Da West Staines Massive.
The origins of the town date back to 43AD when it was settled by the Romans, who called it Ad Pontes, which means ‘bridges’. At the time, it is thought to have been the only Thames crossing into what is now central London.
Staines was recorded as Stane in 1009 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and as Stanes in the Domesday Book of 1086. The name is derived from the AngloSaxon word stane, meaning rock.
It played a significant role as a market town throughout the Middle Ages and its prosperity grew with the Industrial Revolution.
The town was put on the international map by the Staines Linoleum Company, bringing large-scale employment and economic improvement for generations. The M25 extension and heathrow Airport added to the town’s prosperity.
The Ali G parody was less to do with the town and more to do with the character’s lack of perspective as a would-be gangsta living in a leafy suburb.
however, Ali G was globally popular and widely misunderstood, with Staines perceived as an ailing town.
To correct this image, the local business community argued that by adding the suffix ‘-upon-Thames’, it would lose its identification with the ghetto and increase its connection to the river.
On December 15, 2011, Spelthorne Borough Council resolved by 25 votes to four, with six abstentions (including all the councillors for Staines ward), to change the name of the town.
Mike Ellland, Egham, Surrey.
QUESTION Why is J. G. Farrell’s novel Troubles known as the Lost Man Booker winner?
The Lost Man Booker was a 2010 event that corrected a glitch in the prize. It was initially awarded retrospectively until 1971, when the Booker became a prize for best novel in the year of publication. This left 1970 Booker-less — but not bereft of novels worth the attention.
The idea for a lost prize came to Peter Straus, a literary agent and the honorary archivist to the Booker Prize Foundation. The organisers appointed a panel of three judges — born in or around 1970 — to select a shortlist of six novels from a long list.
The panel consisted of the journalist and critic Rachel Cooke, ITN newsreader Katie Derham and the poet and novelist Tobias hill. The six books then went to a public vote.
The shortlist was: The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark; The Birds On The Trees by Nina Bawden; Fire From heaven by Mary Renault; The Bay Of Noon by Shirley hazzard; Troubles by J.G. Farrell; and The Vivisector by Patrick White.
Authors who missed out included Iris Murdoch, David Lodge, Joe Orton, Melvyn Bragg, h.e. Bates, Ruth Rendell, Brian Aldiss and Susan hill.
The Vivisector by Patrick White was hotly tipped to win, but it was J. G. Farrell’s Troubles — a portrayal of the fast-decaying Majestic hotel in 1919 and Britain’s even more rapidly crumbling rule in Ireland — that took the prize.
Farrell had died in 1979, so his brother, Richard, accepted a first edition copy of the book on the author’s behalf.
Farrell also won the 1973 prize for The Siege Of Krishnapur. had Troubles won in 1970, he would have become the first author to win the Booker twice.
Mrs Janine Winterton, Stevenage, Herts.
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